The Psychology of Toys

Our toy shop, The Handmade Homemade Toy Shop Catalog, has been in business
since 1994. We started producing our online toys catalog in 1996 and have shared
quite a bit of information with consumers, toy makers, and the general public over the
years. Past the enjoyment phase of playing with toys there are quite a few underlying
factors that affect how we view toys and why we select them. We find these tendencies
fascinating and would like to share them to all who are interested.

What are Toys Supposed to Do?

Are toys designed merely to entertain? Are they the original "baby-sitter" needed to keep
the babies happy until mom has finished mopping, cooking, doing dishes, laundry, carpet
dusting, window washing ......(more chores ad nausem)? It appears to be much deeper than
being the original boob-tube. To understand this, you have to understand that children did not
create the first yo-yo or wooden whistle. An adult had to have the vision of creating the toy to
give to their children. But why?

Children are curious by nature, of course. A good parent's inclination is to teach their children.
Why is it that 20 cutout counting blocks are considered better for teaching kids to count than
getting 20 spoons out of the drawer to count? The reason is "stimulus". Toys stimulate the
child's imagination that is not yet so encumbered with "real" things. They can imagine that a
stuffed animal is "alive" and a wooden train is really hauling an entire circus to the next town.
The child would certainly be interested in spending time with the parent using anything, spoons
or blocks. Without the parent, the item has to be the center of attention and lend itself to diversity
without many limitations. Therefore, "toys" are made to bridge the practical to the imagination.

How Do Toys Stimulate and Why?

Color is the most obvious stimulus. A variety of colors creates excitement, however, certain colors
stimulate the brain to associate colors with certain objects at an early stage in development. Most
parents pretend that it is okay as "artistic or self expression" for children to color grass pink or cows
purple. Deep down inside, the parent usually feels uneasy or uncertain that their child is "learning" or
understanding reality properly. The parent is also usually stimulated to buy bright toys that illustrate
common items that are scaled in size to the child's perception so that the child experiences cows,
trees, fire engines, and other real-life things without having the "real thing". The parent's motivation is
to teach the correct perception of the world to their child and the best thing to transfer that information
is through brightly colored toys.

The second most observed stimulus is size and touch. Toys give the child the opportunity to
experience the behaviors of real-world objects. Their perception of toys is that these items can
really perform their intended functions. In a kid's hand, a wooden cow can really eat grass, fire engines
can race to the fire, little firemen can really climb the ladders to rescue people from a certain, horrible
fate and wooden trains can truly deliver the goods racing through old western terrain amid hails of arrows
and bandits. The child's physical acts of performing scenarios with toys bring these actions and perceptions
to life which emphasizes the functions and attributes of each item or living creature.

Why Are Physical Toys Better Than Electronic Toys?

While it is true that colors are no longer lacking in today's electronic barrage of games, the visual
perception and depth of field still creates a barrier between "practical" and "imagination". Educational
software has evolved tremendously, but by what standards? Is the child's involvement with educational
gameware the result of curiosity or is it the result of misplaced competitiveness? Is the process of
learning and being intelligent always supposed to end up with some type of reward or punishment?
This is the basic premise of electronic game learning. Children are stimulated by sound and color
with the goal of a reward in mind. Electronic game toys have invaded the basic structure of our
children's learning processes with a "reward factor" being the goal instead of focusing on the
fundamental elements of the activity at hand. If you will imagine for a moment an electronic toy
with wooden blocks displayed on the screen to teach counting. Then imagine a child in a room
with actual wooden blocks to count with, build with, haul in trucks, or form letters with. The
limitations of electronic toys are obvious when one has the opportunity to observe fundamental
play principles in action.

Your Child's Toy Experiences

We are compiling observations and studies concerning physical play. The Handmade, Homemade Toy
Shop Catalog strives to present high-quality toys that are structurally sound and mentally stimulating
to consumers. We look at our toys as a strong effort toward preservation of fundamental learning
processes based on real-life items. We do not carry violence-oriented toys because it is so obvious that
perception can be greatly influenced at an early age. Our handmade toys are chosen to provide visual
stimulation, curiosity, expansion of imaginative play, versatility, and most of all....the true reward of
personal satisfaction and enjoyment. We encourage you to share your observations concerning your
children's experiences with learning tools, play toys, and imaginative items with us.

Author: Karen D. Hill

© 2002, The Handmade, Homemade Toy Shop Catalogs, ALL rights reserved, both electronic and print.
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